Finally, I fulfilled a dream: doing the De Luca - Innerkofler via ferrata on Mount Paterno, in the Sesto Dolomites, an aided hiking route that develops in an iconic scenario dominated by the Tre Cime di Lavaredo (Drei Zinnen).
Via Ferrata De Luca - Innerkofler to Mount Paterno (Paternkofel), Sesto Dolomites
The Tre Cime di Lavaredo (Drei Zinnen - Three Peaks), and in general the Sesto Dolomites, are famous all over the world, and are comparable to natural wonders such as the Grand Canyon, or the Breton or Irish cliffs. It is therefore clear that in the summer, in particular around the Tre Cime, there is a fair amount of tourists. It is with these doubts that I approached the Via Ferrata to Mount Paterno (Paternkofel Klettersteig), especially since, to meet some family needs, I was forced to go up to the Locatelli Hut not from the Fiscalina Valley, but starting from the Auronzo Hut. And in Misurina, on Saturday 19 August 2023, obviously, there was half the world....
However, it went much better than expected, and once the crowds were left in the valley, I found more people on the via ferrata than on the Strada degli Alpini, but the level of crowding was acceptable. And in any case, it was worth facing some discomfort, because doing the Via Ferrata De Luca-Innerkofler is an unforgettable experience. Click here, to enjoy the complete slide gallery of the excursion.
As for the report of my ascent (see my track below), I reached the Forcella (Pass) di Lavaredo from the Auronzo Hut, and then I walked the path high on the debris to take me to the "Frankfurt Sausage", where there is the start of the Via Ferrata Innerkofler, as it is properly called, the aided hiking route that climbs to Paterno from the north side (while the one that climbs from the south side, starting just above the Forcella di Lavaredo, is called Via Ferrata De Luca). If you want to check the conditions of the via ferratas, you can consult the Drei Zinnen mountaineering school website.
The choice to carry out the route in this sense seemed valid to me, both because you immediately face the most spectacular part of the itinerary, passing through the Paterno galleries, and arriving at the summit, via the more vertical aided sections; and because the steep and very tiring couloir on debris, on the east side of the Forcella dei Camosci, is best tackled downhill.... Instead, the higher path, on debris, from the Forcella di Lavaredo to the Frankfurt Sausage, was awkward and slow , and I think it is better and faster to mix with the crowd, and follow the road from the Forcella di Lavaredo to the Locatelli refuge, and then to the Frankfurter Sausage where the Innerkofler Via Ferrata begins.
Below, you will find the map and the details of my itinerary.
As regards the technical difficulty and the physical effort required by the Via Ferrata, I would like to point out that, although it is not a route of extreme technical difficulty, the section known as Via Innerkofler includes many vertical aided passages. In short, this is a real via ferrata, which includes many climbing points, and not just secured walks on horizontal or moderately inclined ledges (such as, for example, the Strada degli Alpini). The physical effort, on the other hand, is important, but not as high as that required by the Strada degli Alpini. You don't hang out that many hours.
The first part of Via Innerkofler develops inside the Paterno galleries, where tying to the safety cable is not even required. On the other hand, it is essential to have a flashlight, as some galleries are really dark, and for stretches that are not short. Forbidden to suffer from claustrophobia! It is an immediately fascinating (and refreshing) stretch of the route, where you are deeply immersed in the history of the First World War, that passed on these mountains. And at the end of the journey, one cannot help but find the striking contrast between the suffering and brutality of a war that took the lives of so many young people, and the beauty that nature offers in these places.
In this stretch, I occasionally had to wait a bit for those in the opposite direction before going up. In some passages, two cables have also been equipped, which separate those going up and those going down. However, I also had the pleasure of climbing with some nice groups, including some from near Bologna, who "broadcast" the route live for those less experienced in their group. I point out that Japanese, English, Spanish, French, and other hikers from Eastern Europe have suddenly appeared out of nowhere on the road.
Once you reach the Forcella dei Camosci, there are still some vertical aided sections, before arriving at the path on debris that leads to the summit Cross (about 1.5 hours from the start of the via ferrata). La Forcella is a crossroads: you can go down towards the Via De Luca, or go up again along the Sentiero delle Forcelle - Schartensteig in German (also Path of Peace) up to the Pian di Cengia Hut.
If the natural environment that surrounds us on the climb is already fascinating, the scenery from the summit is breathtaking. The Tre Cime (Drei Zinnen), the 3 Peaks of Lavaredo, obviously immediately capture our gaze. But all the rest is no different, with the basin where the Locatelli Refuge stands, the spire of the Torre di Toblin, the Tre Scarperi peak, the Croda Rossa, the Cima Undici, the Popera, the Croda dei Toni, the Vedrette di Ries , the Grossglockner (!) with its glacier, and the mountains around Misurina (the Cadini di Misurina and the Cristallo) to complete the scene.
After the photo at the summit Cross, and after having rested and feeded myself a bit, I began the descent, studying the map a bit. I returned to the Forcella dei Camosci, descended from the uncomfortable and narrow couloir below, and then reached the ledge that leads to the Forcella del Passaporto (which separates the Paterno from the Passaporto Peak). This stretch is easy, and very scenic, with some windows in the rock wall from which to admire the Three Peaks.
Once you reach the Forcella del Passaporto, I advise you not to make the mistake I made, and not to follow my gps track (moreover, my phone's GPS had some problems in the tunnel).
Maybe, I didn't see some signs. The fact is that, following some hikers in front of me, I took a narrow track that descends immediately from the Forcella towards West/South-West, on unstable and exposed debris. Frankly, a short stretch but not at all pleasant. Instead, you have to go beyond the Forcella, continue on the wide track that heads South, to pass, after a while, through a comfortable and short tunnel that allows you to easily take you to the west side of the mountain and descend towards the Forcella di Lavaredo.
Attention! Don't think about removing the via ferrata harness, because, further on, there are still some aided sections, in some of which it is better to be secured to the metal cable. A last dark and low tunnel leads us to the end of the aided route and then to the path that descends to the Forcella di Lavaredo.
It is inevitable to turn around and admire the summit of Paterno towards the north with satisfaction, and to thank these mountains for giving us another wonderful day. If you have any considerations, or comments, post them below at the end of the article.
Enjoy your hiking. Fabio Muriano
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